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Movie Review: Rocky III

Rocky III
Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone
United Artists, 1982

Rocky III is a pure example of Reagan-era pop culture, one where a line from the film, “eye of the tiger” is transformed into a hit song by rock band Survivor, one that won them a Grammy and nominated for an Oscar, and became an anthem for sports arenas nationwide. 

Rocky somehow loses his inability to speak in front of the camera and is doing Peyton Manning-scale endorsements, and fights in a charity bout with a wrestler named Thunderlips, played by eighties wrestling icon Hulk Hogan.

But Rocky III may be known as the film that unleashed Mr. T to the world.  The fast, jive-talking black man with a mohawk strip and tons of jewelry, who pities fools and who would later make himself an all-time eighties icon in TV’s The A-Team.  In what we can now refer as the “middle chapters” of Rocky, the filmmakers attempt to dream up an opponent so strong and indestructible, it’s a wonder Rocky can make it out of the ring alive.  Endurance is what kept Rocky in fights before, so why not now?  Rocky becomes Superman.

Yeah, Rocky III is pretty much alien to the original Rocky, in which Rocky is a ”dummy” with a lot of heart.  Now he’s big-time, losing a little bit of that boyish charm.  The beginning of Rocky III, after the rehash of the end of II, goes to the series’ bread and butter: a montage.  It shows Rocky winning title bout after title bout, while Clubber Lang (Mr. T) watches in disgust.  Clubber is making short work of his opponents, too, and he wants Rocky.  During a ceremony unveiling Rocky’s statue on the famous museum steps in which he summits during his training, Clubber calls Rocky out, says he’s been ducking him, and it’s on.

Mickey (Burgess Meredith) doesn’t want Rocky to go into this fight, and admits he’s been giving Rocky non-contenders to keep his title and his health.  Rocky goes through self-doubt, and on the night of the fight, Mickey dies of a heart attack as Rocky gets vanquished by Clubber Lang in two rounds.

Rocky’s got his emotional support from the usual suspects, Paulie (Burt Young) and his wife Adrian (Talia Shire), but a surprise former foe wants to help him beat Clubber in a rematch, none other than Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).  Creed, with the help of his longtime trainer Duke (Tony Burton, in his third Rocky film) whisks Rocky to L.A. to get him “hungry” again and this is where “eye of the tiger” comes into play.

With an emphasis on action, Rocky III is the poster child for what most people imagine when they think of the series.  I actually enjoyed this more than Rocky II, even though you could argue that Rocky II is a better film.  Sometimes a better film doesn’t mean more enjoyable, if that makes any sense.  For instance, your favorite movie could be Star Wars, but you recognize Citizen Kane as the best film of all time, something like that.  This one is entertaining, and that’s what counts.

Follows: Rocky II

Next: Rocky IV

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